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V/H/S2 – 7

Director – Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sánchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, Jason Eisener

Cast – L.C. Holt, Hannah Hughes, Kevin Hunt, Epy Kusnandar, Lawrence Michael Levine, Mindy Robinson, Jay Saunders, Jeremie Saunders, Andrew Suleiman, Adam Wingard, John T. Woods, Kelsy Abbott, Fachry Albar, Oka Antara, Devon Brookshire

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I knew it and I am sure that you knew it too – the successful and well-received V/H/S was definitely getting a sequel, and soon. Less than a year after 10 horror directors gave us one of the scariest flicks of the year, V/H/S2 brings 7 directors, returning director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barret, and once again delivers a series of spooky anthology tales filmed in the popular POV fashion. Clocking in at 96 minutes (20 minutes shorter than its predecessor) this effort takes off quickly and never loses a step, giving us four solid tales (and a wraparound story) that include some of the creepiest scenes I have seen this year. V/H/S2 does have its faults and is far from incredible, but the end result is a horrific experience that is surely to be one of the best of the year for the horror genre.

While searching for a missing male college student, two private investigators break into the student’s home and find a vast collection of VHS tapes. As they view the horrific content of each tape they then begin to realize the sinister intentions behind the student’s disappearance.

After the opening scene where two private investigators blackmail a man cheating on his wife and expose his penis to the masse,s they head to the home of the college student they have been hired to find. The living room is about as unsettling as the living room in the first film, with VHS tapes strewn about and multiple television sets loudly displaying screens of static. A laptop is left open and a message from the missing student is played, indicating that the video tapes contain true and sinister material…so they hit “PLAY”.

The first tape is “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” and comes in just after the 6-minute mark. In this tape a man (Adam Wingard himself) receives an experimental digital eye that replaces his bad eye, and also records everything he does and feeds the information back to the company controlling the experiment. The doctor mentions the new technology could result in some technical glitches, but these glitches will be the least of the man’s problems when he begins to see ghosts around his home. The first act moves quickly and bombards us with horror as the ghosts constantly harass and torment him, and things finally slow down when an acquaintance with a knack for this phenomena joins him at his home. The ghosts do not take kindly to multiple minds plotting against them, and the film ends strong and gruesome. Simon Barrett (You’re Next, The ABCs of Death, V/H/S, A Horrible Way to Die)’s story is a simple one that reminded me of the 2004 Hong Kong film The Eye, except we never really find out why the ghosts are visible through the digital eye. Director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The ABCs of Death, V/H/S, A Horrible Way to Die) does a superb job setting up the many chills the tape provides, with great atmosphere playing a heavy role in making this segment a positive one. The look of the ghosts was creepy, effective, and unlike the typical spirits we see these days, and only sometimes were they a little cliché, but he makes up for whatever faults there are with his knack for bringing chaos to the screen.

The second tape is “A Ride in the Park”, the first zombie film in the V/H/S franchise. This Jamie Nash (Altered, Lovely Molly) screenplay follows a biker taking off for a morning ride through the woods while donning a helmet camera. Shortly into his ride he is bitten by a zombie and quickly “turns”, giving us something I have never seen in the genre: a horror experience from a zombie’s perspective. We watch as he runs about the wooded area, biting and disemboweling unsuspecting hikers and birthday party-goers in brutal fashion. Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project, Altered, Seventh Moon, Lovely Molly) and The Blair Witch Project producer Greg Hale both direct this very simple experience, and I was surprised to see an Eduardo Sanchez film with so much gore, and live-action gore at that.

The third tape gives us the film’s biggest selling point, “Safe Haven”. Set in Indonesia, a documentary film crew gains access to a secretive religious cult whose leader, “Father”, is said to sleep with the children to “purify” them. The crew begins to dig deep into the cult’s activities and the secrets of their compound, but the filmmakers also happened to pick the absolute worst time ever to do this. A heinous ritual is about to commence, and all Hell will literally break loose. The Raid writer/director Gareth Evans and Indonesian phenom Timo Tjahjanto (The ABCs of Death, Macabre) both write and direction this short epic, and they do so with absolutely fantastic results. From the get-go it is very obvious that there is something seriously wrong with the secretive religious folk, and while it takes a short while for things to get going the horror definitely does not disappoint. When the ball finally gets rolling the horror brings forth non-stop gore, brutal deaths, ritualistic carnage, and Satanic chaos all in one devastating third act. The direction is incredible, from the location, to the atmosphere, to the gore, and to the absolute carnage that I found hard to believe but absolutely enjoyed. This is not just the best film in V/H/S2, but possibly the best entry in the entire V/H/S series.

The last video tape is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”, returning to a recurring theme after V/H/S‘s alien film, “The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger”. Hobo With A Shotgun writer/director Jason Eisener (The ABCs of Death) writes (with the help of John Davies) and directs this piece, doing so with pretty positive results. With their parents out of town for the weekend, the family’s younger brother and his friends videotape their constant harassment of his older sister and her boyfriend until their secluded, lake-side home is attacked by aliens. The aliens bombard the home and creep in through every possible opening, forcing the teens to run about for their lives as they are each abducted one by one. I liked this story overall and it is sure to please fans of alien abduction films, but animal lovers beware: there is a questionable/tasteless scene you may not enjoy. Eisener’s direction was good, with awesome atmosphere and creepy locations used to set up the alien invasion, lead by a slew of typical “Greys” that were still pretty scary in my opinion. Eisener makes much use of noise / loud hums and bright lights to add chaos to the horror, and I really liked this tactic and found it to engage my senses more than if things had stayed quiet and dark. This is not the most solid entry in the series, but a positive way to end the tapes.

With four VHS tapes out of the way all we have left is the expected wraparound involving the two private investigators, and I felt that the wraparound, also titled “Tape 49”, was the absolute worst entry in the film. Things are interesting at first, but as each VHS tape is viewed the wraparound became more and more dull, cliché, and created more questions than it had answers for. This segment does hint at V/H/S2 actually being a prequel to V/H/S given this film’s wraparound is “Tape 49′ whereas V/H/S‘s wraparound is “Tape 57”, with common sense leading the way in that assumption. There are also a few other clues that may lead you to believe this is a prequel, but I will let you discover them for yourself. I really felt the film could have ended on a much better note, especially when you consider that every entry into this flick was a positive one, unlike V/H/S which was mostly positive but consisted of the abysmal “Saturday the 14th”. Nonetheless, V/H/S2 is another solid experience from The Collective (production company) and will most likely remain one of the best horror films of the year.

Overall, V/H/S2 is a solid 96 minutes that gives us four harrowing tales that each come with their own positives and good, enjoyable horror. The film’s anthology setup should easily secure your attention and thanks to the talent of the numerous filmmakers involved in this effort, give you an experience that will be worth your while.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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